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Iran protester arrests may be unlawful: UN rights chief

[JURIST] The arrests of protesters in Iran may not conform with the law, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay [official profile] said Friday, expressing concern [press release] over the increasing number of reported arrests [JURIST report]. Classifying freedom of expression and assembly as "fundamental human rights," Pillay commended the peaceful and dignified nature of the protests that followed the country's controversial presidential election [BBC backgrounder]. Stating that Pillay is urging Iranian authorities to ensure due process is followed [press release], her spokesman said that the issue raises questions concerning the grounds for the arrests, warrants, denied access to lawyers and family members, and the unknown whereabouts of some of those arrested. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official profile; BBC profile], who previously ordered an investigation [JURIST report] into alleged voter fraud, has called for an end to further demonstrations [CNN report] and maintained that the election was not manipulated. Addressing a crowd at Tehran University, Khamenei said that the election turnout was too large to be subject to fraud and that the results accurately represent the voters.

Human rights groups have viewed the arrests as political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals." Calling for authorities to respect and nurture debate, Amnesty International [advocacy website] stressed [press release] Thursday that "healthy debate on issues of fundamental importance to peoples' lives" informs, rather than threatens, policy makers." Following the Ayatollah's ordered investigation, Iran's Guardian Council of the Constitution [official website, in Persian] said Tuesday that it would conduct a partial recount [JURIST report] of the disputed election results. The protests took place [AP report] throughout the country following last weekend's announcement of a victory by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] over reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi [IranTracker profile].

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